Netflix’s romantic comedy, The Last Summer, is a cute film that follows the story lines of a few different teenagers right after they graduate high school. I went into the movie expecting it to be overly dramatic and corny like most high school romcom stories. However, after watching the movie for a bit, I came to realize that beneath the romcom cheesiness were lessons that held a lot of weight, especially for those just graduating high school. Take a look below to see the ones I found to be the most impactful.
1. Success looks different for everyone and that’s okay.
Before graduating high school, we are all exposed to the pressure of needing to move on to a good college or needing to study within a successful field. However, these stereotypes for success are false. Whether you decide to go to college, enter the workforce, go into the military, study art, etc. your skills will be valued in this world. We can’t all follow the same path to success or else the world would be a pretty boring place. So be confident in yourself and what you think feels right. You know what’s best for you, just like Audrey (Sosie Bacon) knew college wasn’t for her and Griffin (K.J. Apa) knew studying business wasn’t for him. Everything will fall into place, I promise.
2. Don’t let other people’s noise drown out your own voice.
Multiple times throughout the movie we watch characters like Reece (Mario Revolori), Chad (Jacob McCarthy), and Griffin, doubt themselves due to other people’s opinions. Reece and Chad let themselves believe they were losers because of their peers superficial comments. Griffin almost studied business because of his father’s negative ideas about his true passion, music. However, Claire (Valerie Jane Parker) had it right when she told Chad, “Whoever said that you weren’t cool, doesn’t really know you.” Be yourself, do what makes you happy, and don’t listen to the negativity of others. You’ll find your people and when you do, they’ll never make you second guess who you are or what you love; instead, they’ll support you.
3. Change doesn’t have to mean that everything and everyone gets left behind.
For most people, change in any form represents a turn in life for new opportunities. When the time for this comes, especially when you’re moving to a new place, people often assume you need to leave your old self behind and start new. While this is partly true and can bring a lot of positive growth, I will warn to not be rash with who or what you cut out. Every step you have taken in life has led you to the point you’re at today, and not all of those steps were bad ones. Be open to new experiences as you move forward but remind yourself of where you came from and the people who helped get you there. When the summer before college came around, Erin and Alec felt they had to break-up. But shortly after, they realized that they had made that decision too fast and they weren’t ready to move on yet and that’s okay. Change doesn’t have to mean the end of everything so just slow down and take your time with it.
4. We all come from different walks of life and there’s value in that.
We are all different, unique, and wonderful in our own ways. Our varied backgrounds and identities allow us to all bring something different to the table and offer new perspectives. Audrey said it best when talking to Erin, “…we come from different places…you got different opportunities because of that.” She didn’t shame Erin for their differences, but she recognized them and embraced them. We all have things that set us apart from the crowd, so let’s welcome those differences and learn from each other.
5. Know the importance of hard work, but don’t drown in it.
At the start of the film, Phoebe (Maia Mitchell) didn’t want to date Griffin because she was so focused on her work and didn’t want any distractions. However, with a little push, she let him in and opening herself up to him helped her and her work. She gained a support system as he encouraged her and assisted her throughout her project. She gained happiness by letting herself actually enjoy summer and live in the present. But most of all, her project benefited greatly from these things. Working hard is great, but what does it come to in the end if you have no one to celebrate it with or you’re so immersed in what you’re doing that it becomes uninspiring? Live a complete life, not one that’s out of balance.
6. Honesty goes a long way.
This one seems simple but it’s true. Owning up to your mistakes or opening up about parts of yourself that you have tucked away, can be extremely hard. But living a life in hiding is so much harder. Pushing through that discomfort and being honest about who you are or what you’ve done is more noble than you think. Vulnerability is power. It makes us more genuine and allows us to connect with more people. Griffin was nervous to confront Phoebe about their parents but hiding this truth only made things worse. However, when he opened up and spoke to Phoebe’s mom, he grew as a person, gained respect, and repaired what had gone wrong. Speak your truth, it’s better than staying silent.
7. Don’t settle for less than what you’re worth.
Last but not least is this: never ever settle for anything less than what you deserve. We watched Audrey struggle with this throughout the movie, but in the end Lilah (Audrey Grace Marshall) helped her to realize that she deserved more. You are valuable, you are worth it, and what you want in life, matters. So whether this phrase is significant in the relationships in your life, the career path you want to take, the passions you want to pursue, etc.— have the patience to wait for the right opportunity and don’t settle for anyone or anything that doesn’t make you happy. As Lilah said, “Wait, why would you ever just settle for anything?”